In the middle of November 2016, The World’s 50 Best Bars website released their annual list. With New York and London strongly represented throughout the list, RumCask came across a bar in Milan called Nottingham Forest residing at number 38 (a regular since 2007!). This was of great interest as we were heading to Milan later that week anyway, and where better to have a cocktail or few?
Run by Dario Comino, this bar is known as the Cathedral of Italian bartending expression. The bar, and indeed Dario, focus on the science behind cocktails. A lovely intimate venue here with space for 20-30 people only and with a queue from the moment it opens (actually before it opens), this is not a venue to turn up late to!
Thankfully we got there 15 minutes before opening time and there were already 4 people ahead of us in the queue. We walked in and grabbed a nice cosy pair of seats with a good view of the bar. Nottingham Forest is full of wares from Dario’s travels and over 2000 bottles of spirits, an impressive showing indeed!
We were thankful as they also had an English cocktail menu, but I was forewarned it wasn’t as extensive as the native Italian version. The menu showcased a variety of different techniques used in the creation of some cocktail masterpieces which include spherification and cryogenics amongst others.
The first cocktail was of course rum based. Well more specifically, white rhum. This was mixed with cranberry and ginger beer and was one of the Cryogenic cocktails aptly named “Chernobyl.” They use compressed CO2 which sublimates when used in a drink to pass directly from a solid to a gas, bypassing the liquid state creating white smog which they say is similar to “Merlin’s magic potions.”
We also ordered a “Box” cocktail. This cocktail uses other senses to induce travel memories by mixing perfume and tastes in small Indian wooden cases with unusual incenses. We chose the Thai box which was vodka based and infused with passion fruit, although they had a Mandela box with liquorice infused and a Bombay box with Mango infused.
Both cocktails were beautifully presented. The Chernobyl was in a skull head glass with the cocktail bubbling throughout. The box arrived, well, in a box which the incense and a fortune cookie. As it was opened the aroma poured out and surrounded you, giving your senses an appreciation of Thailand before the first sip met your lips. A great couple of cocktails to start!
From here we had some of the complimentary nibbles and moved along to the next couple of choices. As you can imagine, we were looking forward to round 2. We decided on the “Message in a bottle” and “The Cube.”
The message in a bottle is a cocktail in a glass bottle with a paper message on the side infused with aroma. You can place this message into the bottle to give it the authentic feel and let the aroma blend with the cocktail. Alternatively you can eat it separately from the drink and it will give you a similar experience. The options you have on the cocktail are light and fruity, medium or dry. We opted for the dry version.
The Cube cocktail comes in a crystal cube with a pipette on the side. Before, during or after each sip, you can add a small amount of the pipette into the drink or your mouth. A little bit of work, but the result should yield a different flavour each time. A very interesting concept.
Once again the presentation was astounding when the cocktails arrived. Both looked as good as they tasted. The message for the bottle was “save the world.” A sentiment although vague, is something nobody can’t argue with. I’m sure these are usually in Italian so we appreciated the fact it was written in English. We promptly added this to the glass bottle to allow the aromas to infuse well. The dry cocktail was a nice change to the fruity Chernobyl from earlier. The Cube was miraculous in how the flavour changed after each drop of the pipette on the side. A great cocktail extremely well executed.
Four cocktails in and we had time for another one each. We decided to go off-piste and ask the bartender for something he thought we would like. A quick chat on what we liked and he had an idea of what to make. He returned with a large box that contained a couple of cocktails. He told us the picture opportunity will come the moment he opened the box and we got ready. He revealed a twist on the famous rum cocktail called the Hurricane. The twist was that it was infused with pink pepper and gentian violet via a method of sous-vide and garnished with star anise. Finally it was smoked with Marijuana. This cocktail fitted in perfectly with what we had tasted so far.
Staying with the theme of the evening, the presentation and taste of the hurricane was superb. This goes to prove as well as their set menu, they can create masterpieces on the spot to suit your taste profile. Well played Nottingham Forest, well played.
As we left the bar we saw a queue of about 30 people. Quite amazing seeing as the bar wasn’t jam packed inside. We were told this is because they limit the number of people in the bar and give you the best experience possible. They don’t rush you or even let you know there are people waiting outside. You are there to enjoy the experience, not to be rushed in and out.
Overall, Nottingham Forest clearly takes a lot of pride in all aspects of the cocktail experience for the patron. From the visual elements, to the smells and aromas, to the taste, each cocktail takes you on a journey. A journey which we will be revisiting on every trip to Milan, without fail. If you’re ever in the city, or even close, make the trip to the bar. You won’t be sorry. Just be sure not to turn up too late!